While there are various positive aspects and associations related to the festive period, Christmastime can also result in loneliness becoming clearer for people to see. The Mental Health Foundation has found that 19.7 per cent of people aged 16 years old and above across the UK showed symptoms of depression or anxiety in 2014, while the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that there were five per cent of adults throughout England alone who reported feeling lonely either ‘often’ or ‘always’ in 2016 to 2017.
If you feel lonely, the festive season can be a time of year that is met with dread. This is because they could see the holiday season as a time of the year where they witness those around them getting reacquainted with loved ones, with these instances likely to make their feelings of emotional isolation more profound.
Take note too that, according to the ONS, older widowed homeowners who live along and with long-term health conditions were especially likely to report feelings of loneliness more frequently. Elderly citizens who have had to say goodbye to a loved one may be made more aware that someone is no longer with them when they carry out traditions that they used to enjoy doing as a couple. Everything from hanging up Christmas decorations to having a Christmas dinner can trigger these moments of sadness.
As the festive season is quickly coming around once more, Brits have been urged by curved stairlift manufacturer Acorn Stairlifts to provide a helping hand to elderly loved ones and neighbours throughout the holiday period. Here’s some advice on how to do so…
The joys of volunteering with the elderly
Volunteering feels even more special and thoughtful when carried out across the festive season. There’s nothing quite matching helping others and then seeing their appreciation in the way they respond to the acts of kindness and the positive looks on their faces.
People who feel lonely can also find volunteering very helpful. However, it can be intimidating doing it on your own at first. Therefore, why not consider working at a soup kitchen or organizing a gift drive and then asking others if they want to get involved, too?
On the topic of volunteering, be sure to take the time to enquire with an elderly relative or neighbour if they need any help carrying out tasks around their homes this Christmas. Whether it’s giving them a hand to put up decorations or clearing their yard after a heavy snowstorm, you’ll be helping while also giving those you’re assisting some company.
Christmas traditions that you can get elderly people involved in
Christmas comes with traditions that people like to get involved with year after year, regardless of their age. Therefore, have you enquired with elderly neighbours and relatives of their interest in getting involved in fun-filled occasions throughout the festive season? They may enjoy joining you for some Christmas shopping, for example, or to see your town or city’s Christmas lights display. See if they also want to get involved when you go carolling, are decorating your homes or are making holiday crafts too — many of these are likely to remind them of their youth and can also see many generations all enjoying the holiday period together.
Be aware too that some people will worry that they are intruding on someone else’s family time, choosing not to ask if they can get involved in an individual’s Christmas traditions as a result. However, they won’t need to worry about this if you’re the one to reach out and present them with the friendly invite.
Avoid only using electronics to connect with the elderly
The problem of loneliness can be heightened when people spend large amounts of time on their computers and mobile devices. Dr. Jennifer Caudle, an assistant professor of family medicine at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, stated that loneliness can be “an invisible epidemic”, masked by an individual’s online persona.
An individual’s online persona is unlikely to be reflecting their real-life emotions of loneliness either, Dr. Caudle was also keen to point out. Therefore, be sure to take the time to see people in person no matter how hectic the holiday season is.
“Being connected electronically isn’t the same as in person,” Dr. Caudle went on to acknowledge to CBS News. “There’s something about a person-to-person interaction that’s generally better for our well-being. Maybe it’s intangible. But I think being around other people, family or friends, and that reassurance, communication, or something as small as a smile or a touch; these are small things, but I think they’re very important.”